Week 2 Done!
I've been meaning to share some of the blogs of friends here on the course. Karen Kennedy, from San Diego is blogging at KKInIreland, and Una Minh-Caomhanach, a Journalist from Tralee is at Spill The Beans.
Thursday morning started bright and early. Kate (my house-mate) and I were on veg duty, and had to meet the Farm Manager, Haulie, at 7.30am to gather the vegetables for the days cooking. It was pretty amazing to be pulling the cabbage out of the ground that would go into my salad later that morning. We spent about an hour on that, and then back to change out of our wellies into the whites.
Creme Caramel, Cabbage, Fennel and Sultana Salad and Brown Soda Bread
The day's cooking went ok. The creme caramel was awkward to make with lots of different elements going at once, and required very exact timing. My soda bread looked and tasted like soda bread, but was too dense apparently and I need more practice. Perfection awaits. As usual, everything took longer than I had planned for, especially all the chopping for the salad and preparing the dressing. Something to work on in the coming weeks.
One of the skills we have to master, filleting a fish
On Friday, I was assigned the Haddock Gratin and Tomato Fondue, two very simple dishes. The fish was very fresh and we were shown how to fillet and skin it correctly. Feedback was that it was passable for a first try but would be unacceptable for a second attempt - t's a tricky one! With the fondue, I had to start over with a new onion as I caramelized (browned) the first one instead of sweating it (cook until translucent). We get constant, tough feedback which is good as we're held to a very high, professional standard, which means we're learning all the time.
For my Mum, who doesn't want to see only food photos on my blog!
Tomato Fondue (tomatoes, onion, garlic, thyme) Has a number of uses, served as a vegetable or a sauce for pasta, filling for omelettes or topping for pizza
Served up my fish with the tomato fondue (which I was told didn't work together! Both tasted great though)
Tips from this week:
- Potatoes LOVE salt. Cooking them in seawater or with seaweed will get great results. Boiling the seawater will clean it
- Never buy pre-washed potatoes. the earth holds in the flavour and nutrients, and they will keep better with the earth on
- When cooking roast potatoes, only season them when cooked otherwise the salt will cause them to stick to the tray
- Add salt to water when boiling an egg. The shells are porous so the salt will be absorbed, and if the shell cracks the salt will seal it
- Spring lamb needs no dressing, garlic or rosemary. Only seasoning and good mint sauce since the meat is so young and tender
- Garlic should be finely chopped, not crushed. The crushers are impossible to clean
- Rice and vegetables can be kept hot and moist by placing parchment (greaseproof) paper over them in the saucepan and keeping the lid on
- Tin foil is no longer used in cooking at Ballymaloe because of the possible health risks. It's been shown that the foil can leach into food and increased aluminium in the body can weaken bones and has been associated with Alzheimers
- Cinnamon is a natural cholesterol-buster, the best comes from Sri Lanka
- Consumer's have become conditioned to believe that produce such as fruit and vegetables should look "perfect" with no defects, which is impossible without the use of colouring agents, additives etc. This leads to massive food waste as supermarkets won't stock food that does not look as expected. Organic food will often look misshapen and will vary in size
- If you're going to make a quiche, it may as well be gorgeous so use full-fat cream instead of milk!
- Speaking of cream, full-fat products are always used at Ballymaloe, never low-fat, spreads or other alternatives. Darina believes that low-fat as a concept is the greatest rip-off of the 21st century. We've been told that animal fats were bad for us without proof. Only two vitamins are water-soluble, all the rest require fat for the body to absorb them, which has led to a Vitamin D deficiency in Ireland
That's it for week 2. I'm back out into the real world tomorrow for a friend's Hen night. It'll be nice to have a break from here. As one of the girls in the cottage said this week - "this is 24 fucking 7, I'm dreaming of the hen bucket and the stock-pot". Sweet dreams!